Friday, June 10, 2011

Why Ayn Rand ceases to impress when I am over 40?

It all started with my nephew's post of an extract from Fountainhead on Facebook.  I found it hardly impressive. For the records I'm over 40 now and want to claim that I am worldly wiser.  But the same text was so appealing when I was in college and during my early career.  Though I didn't imagine myself to be Howard, I was arrogant about what I wanted to do.  I came out of a TCS interview that I will never do COBOL, walked out of my first job because of differences with my boss.  Even now I won't do COBOL, but when I walked out of the interview, I had no job, no good grades and had nothing to support my ego.  (Even now, I have a secret fear that I may be forced  to work for India's big "so called" technology companies.  Thank God, it is only a fear.)

It is obvious that my perception changed with age.  And I find it normal for a younger person to align with Ayn Rand just as it is normal for me to value collective work and greater good.  Why is it normal for a young male to be individualistic?

I am limiting my theory to males.  Females have a slightly different system and will keep them out of this post.

The mind has a notion of a physical self and a psychological self.  Physical self starts at about 2-3 years of age when the child starts to feel "I".  Till the onset of adolescence, physical self is enough to take care.  The only constituent of the identity is the physical self.  Academic, athletic and artistic performances play roles in the strength of this identity.

This identity is not enough to fit in a society.  He has to have more strength to his identity to get a partner for procreation.

At about 12, 13, the psychological self starts.  This is when the child begins to have opinions about society, politics, religion, economics etc.  The observation and learnings happen till the boy is about 17-18.  Then, the boys starts identifying himself with his views.  The psychological self takes shape and adds itself to the identity.

This is required for social reasons.  In a very simple scenario, the boy identifies himself with the clan and will be seen as someone to strengthen it.  His chance of finding a partner increases, he will be seen as someone who will have children to strengthen the clan.  Take an Afgan tribal as an example and you will see why aligning with jihad is natural for him.  (Also note that such society wouldn't tolerate an Ayn Rand influenced individual.)

In a plural society, identifying with a caste, religion or race can be counter-productive.  It would diminish the prospect of finding a partner.  Also, having no additional identity would leave the boy in pre-adolescent stage.  This is when boys align with ideologies of communism, capitalism etc.  An example would be the societies in Indian cities between post independence till 1990.

There is a similarity between US in 1940s (Ayn Rand's  Fountainhead days) and post liberalized India.  Communism remained only on paper and in Kolkatta.  Capitalism is established and there is nothing to fight for or against.  That's when individualism appeals.

So, it is natural to be impressed by individualism for a middle/upper-middle class urban boy of age of 18-25 in India after 1990!  The boy can claim to be an individualist and walk with an air of superiority.  Serves the ego and self confidence, might help in finding a girl but not always.

Post 25, when the boy is a man, married and has responsibility of supporting a family, the reality dawns that individualism doesn't bring home the bacon.

1 comment:

Mouli said...

But, post 25 when the boy is a man AND NOT MARRIED, he may still be impressed with Individualism and Ayn Rand!

Or to put it another way, post 25 when the boy is a man AND MARRIED, he may WISH he'd still be impressed with Individualism and Ayn Rand!